Employersoffering career breaks could end up in court if company policies for gap yearsare not water tight, a legal expert has warned.Organisationsare increasingly offering employees career breaks, believing they are coveredby European legislation. But they are not, and organisations need to ensurethat they have clear-cut policies in place.Speakingto Personnel Today’s sister publication Employers’ Law, Patricia Leighton, theJean Monnet professor ofEuropean law at the University of Glamorgansaid: “There is no European legislation on career breaks and what it comesdown to is basic contract law,” she said.”Itmight be dressed up as flexible working, work-life balance and family-friendlypolicies and all the rest of it, but, at the end of the day, we are dealingwith basic employment contract law.”However,she warned that harmonisation, or developing standard procedures for careerbreak policies, may be a long way off -just as it took considerable time todevelop standards for maternity leave.”Nobodywas very clear about the legal status of that, and that’s taken 20 years tohammer down,” Leighton said – noting that it was the European Courts ofJustice had been instrumental in making the position of women on maternityleave “pretty water tight”.SimonJeffreys, a partner whospecialises in employment law at CMS Cameron McKenna, said employers must talkthrough the implications of the career breaks carefully with the individual sothe employee knows what to expect if and when they come return. Hesaid that if an employer did not do this, they ran the risk of having legalproblems later on.Increasingly,organisations are allowing staffbreaks of anything up to five years. The Metropolitan Police, for instance, currently has 226 officers on sabbatical leave. Companieslike Asda, meanwhile,continue to blaze a trail when it comes to innovative work-life balance policies,offering ‘Benidorm Leave’for the over 50s (up to three months, unpaid).Questions HR must ask –Does the break count as continuous service?–What is the effect on benefits?–What happens to that individual when they come back? ByDeeDee Doke Offering career breaks could land you in courtOn 5 Oct 2004 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.